One year of Mysore style

When I say I do yoga every day, I’m talking about something called Mysore-style. This is an open session, supervised by a teacher and assistant, where students complete a sequence at their own pace. You are taught this sequence pose-by-pose, so everyone in the room is practicing something slightly different, aligned to their own limitations and challenging them in healthy ways. They are of all kinds of ages, backgrounds, fitness levels, experience levels.

You rest when you feel it’s needed, modify as required and finish when you like. Everyone arrives and leaves at different times depending on their daily schedules. It is a personalised and intimate atmosphere, usually silent. I practice for 90 minutes to up to 2 hours a day.

This style is what has allowed me to do yoga every day. You get personalised attention from expert teachers and you’re silently supported by the energy of the room – there is no expectation. Mysore-style is special. It requires passion to entertain the idea in the first place, and demands determination and discipline; if you don’t have that before starting, you will learn it.

The first time you show up, you will have no idea what is going on, even if you’ve done yoga before. It’s intimidating, but it’s also magic. You practice the same sequence daily, slowly adding poses until you learn the complete Primary Series. Poses are given by the teacher, who watches your progress and adjusts you accordingly. Everybody says this, but only because it’s the truth – it’s not really about the physical posture. It’s about the mental effect of doing the same thing every day and noticing the minute differences in your body and mind each time. It’s the experience of allowing yourself to have goals without getting tunnel vision, learning to breathe and be still in what is sometimes extreme discomfort. It’s learning how to fail, falling on your face in front of a room of people. It’s learning to move the physical body with integrity, while caring for the emotional and energetic aspects of our being.

But the most important thing you discover, by practicing in silence with the body and mind every day, is that the body is not a slave, or a fancy car… it is a home. It is a friend; a partner for every endeavour you have in the world. You can’t ‘make’ a partner do anything nor treat a friend with disrespect. You can’t issue commands to the body. You must ask.

You must ask – always gently and yet with persistence. Yoga is a process of asking permission. What do you need? What makes you feel good? What are you able to do for me today? Can you try it again? Maybe next week? Will you go further?

Little by little, the body responds to this, gifting you with abilities you never thought possible. All you need is consistency, passion and respect.

That’s what I have learned from one year of Mysore. I think you should try it.